Brotherhood of Running Backs

Posted by on Friday, August 9, 2019 in National Football League, Sports Econ Blog.

Interview with Bloomberg Law. Lexology.

NFL Player expenses by position in 2019.  Spotrac.

I’m a reporter with Bloomberg Law and did a brief story this morning on the potential for running backs to split from the NFL Players Association. I’d love to update the story with some more context on why running backs might want to split from the NFLPA and why this would/wouldn’t make sense.

Here’s a quick take:

The NFLPA is collectively the weakest of the four major NA professional player unions largely because the relatively short careers of NFL players average about 3.8 years. 

This makes it difficult to unionize and sets up a tried and true divide and conquer management strategy by the owners that usually pits veteran players against rookie players still under their first contracts and future players not yet in the League.

This seniority division is greatest among NFL running backs because by comparison their fragile and fleeting careers only average about 2.6 years. So the possible breakaway of the endangered NFL running back is the organic result of a weakly bonded NFLPA which in turn derives from the riskiness of an NFL players career. This is especially true for the risky short lived careers of the NFL running backs.

Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 NFL owners have held the greatest monopsony power of the four major North American leagues. NFL players gained unrestricted free agency in the 1993 CBA, but only after the NFLPA had decertifed as a union in 1989, sued the NFL in McNeil in 1992 and agreed to the self-defeating mobility restrictions of a hard salary cap.



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